Trish Harren: Concierge Program makes transition to Austin seamless

Published 6:30 am Saturday, January 30, 2021

Growing up, I moved a lot. My father was a commercial contractor building banks, schools and hospitals, and each new project brought us to a new town. Leaving friends behind was hard, but I loved the excitement of exploring a new landscape and meeting new people. As an adult, I found myself with the impulse to keep up my childhood pattern of moving every few years. But once I had children, I fulfilled that desire to move through building and selling homes and stayed rooted in one community for over two decades.  When my youngest child went off to college, and that impulse to move about the country hit, I decided to act. That move led me to Austin.

Kristen Olson

Moving as a child, I was oblivious to the dark side of relocating: those challenges of finding housing, changing medical providers, and the myriad of details necessary when you make a change of place. Those details quickly tempered my enthusiasm over my impending move.

But then a thick manila envelope arrived in the mail from the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce. Inside was a folder chock full of information about available rentals (not listed on Zillow or in the paper), lists of professional service providers, information about recreational opportunities, and much more. When I came to town a week later, I signed a lease on a rental, found a moving company, used coupons that were in the packet to try restaurants, and felt like I had my own personal support system to make the move. In fact, that is exactly what I had.

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Some of you may not know that the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce has a Concierge program for newcomers. Not only do you get access to everything you would ever want or need to know about Austin, you have a real person to call with questions. You also get invited to become part of a cohort of other newcomers to ease your transition. Each month there are planned activities including attending sporting events, an out-county dinner tour, yoga in the park, plays and concerts, and most recently, a book club has been added. There is even support to connect trailing spouses to jobs.

A number of people in my cohort have become good friends. One member of my cohort is now my doctor. The structure of this program is truly remarkable and it has made all the difference in how quickly I settled into the community and felt at home here.

Kristen Olson, the concierge, is perhaps the best part of the program. She genuinely wants you to feel welcome and it is evident that she genuinely loves this place I have come to call home.

In theory, you graduate out of the program after 24 months. That is really a good length of time to sink roots and settle in. For most people that is. I have become a newcomer groupiethough, and am just not quite ready to leave the nest. Each month I make one more connection and learn something new about the area. So they are letting me stay a bit longer.

The Concierge program is a sign of how committed Austin is to creating a welcoming environment. Well over 200 people participate is this program each year. I can’t thank the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce enough for this opportunity and for all that Kristen has done to make my move to Austin the easiest and most rewarding transition of my life.